The Rapidian

Our Infertility Story: Struggling to find support in the #1 city to raise a family

Recently diagnosed with infertility, we have been frustrated by the lack of support available in Grand Rapids. We are reaching out to Grand Rapidians to share our story, create a support group and locate a support group meeting space.
Kevin and I with our two dogs.

Kevin and I with our two dogs.

Building Support for Infertility

Connect with others suffering with infertility. We are corrently looking to collaborate and find a space for a West Michigan RESOLVE chapter that recognizes all the options and challenges to being infertile in Grand Rapids.

If you are interested in joining our support group and/or have a space that you are willing to provide free of charge, please contact us.

Kevin and I are relatively new to Grand Rapids. In the summer of 2010, we discovered that Kevin’s job would be moving us from Milwaukee to Grand Rapids. Recently married and excited to start our lives together, we packed up our things and headed to Michigan. We knew no one, only had each other and while it was scary to take such a leap we were excited to see what Grand Rapids would offer.

Kevin’s job arranged for us to take a week to find housing. It was mid-September 2010 and we drove ourselves to the Amway Hotel amazed to see the crowds that packed the downtown streets. ArtPrize was going on and we stared from our large corner hotel window down upon the streets trying to make sense of this West Michigan city. Neither of us had ever been here before and so we looked to our realtor to help us make sense of the city.

Looking at houses after houses, we fell in love with a little cottage in the SE corridor of Grand Rapids that borders the Ottawa Hills neighborhood. Driving up and down the streets, kids were riding their bikes, parents were walking strollers and couples were stoking up their grills. As newlyweds, we were sold and so in December 2010 we moved into our cottage, anxious to make a home in Grand Rapids.

Months of unpacking, painting and learning the town ensued over the 2010-2011 winter. Anxious to nest, we adopted two puppies and began making plans for our spare bedroom. Spring became summer and summer transitioned into fall. We met neighbors, many who asked the obvious question “You guys have kids?” “Not yet,” we’d reply and follow-up with our hopeful intentions, “Soon, we are hoping real soon.”

As the seasons passed, and we found ourselves embarking upon our one year anniversary in this city. Kids continued to ride bikes down our street and parents continued to push strollers. Still there were no signs of kids or babies or strollers for us. A sense of worry began to sink in. Here we were in this house, just the two of us with our dogs, a large spare room and our hope for a future family that we were anxious to start. Concerned with our lack of progress on getting pregnant, we both made appointments, visited doctors and ran tests. The tests were evaluated and we were told, “Everything is normal. Just give it time. Reduce your stress. Have fun. Track your cycles. Remember, conceiving takes time.”

But the facts didn’t line up. We were young, barely 25. We had no prior histories. We tracked my cycle. No pregnancy. Month after month, sadness and despair set in. Here we were in this city, just the two of us, but with no one to talk to. Desperate, we made an appointment at the Fertility Center on the northeast side of town. Here, we learned about IVF, shots and hormones. Looking around in the room, we were clearly the youngest. We returned from that meeting with a series of questions. Do we try IVF right now? Do we try to have our own children? What about adoption? Genuinely freaked out, we decided to postpone, take time to process our situation and to mourn the fact that we had become part of the 6% population labeled as having “unexplained infertility.” We had no reason not to be fertile, except for the fact that it had been two consecutive years now of trying with no success.

The decision to postpone took pressure off of creating a family and instead put attention on us. We went on dates. We talked about our goals. We learned about each other. We re-evaluated our roles with work. Kevin eventually quit the job that moved us to Grand Rapids in order to return to graduate school to work in a medical physics program. I, already in graduate school studying rhetoric and writing, began to study heteronormative rhetorical practices and question the rhetorical identity of family.

This fall will mark our third year living as an infertile couple in this city. And while we have transitioned and developed as a couple with goals beyond the need to start a family, we still struggle living with infertility in Grand Rapids. Recently, Grand Rapids was ranked by Forbes Magazine as the #1 city in the U.S. to raise a family. While many are proud of such a ranking, this statistic as an infertile couple has forced us to question what it means to be childless in this city. This has lead to a feeling of loneliness and an urgent need to find infertility support.

Searching for support, we contacted the Fertility Center to inquire if we could join their support groups only to be turned away as they restrict those groups to couples actively seeking IVF. For Kevin and I, we are not sure if we want children. Perhaps some day we will. But we are not sure if we want to invest in IVF and perhaps, instead, would prefer to consider adoption. Additionally, the First United Methodist Church in Grand Rapids sponsors an infertility support group. However, it is restricted to women suffering from infertility. Yet, for Kevin and I, infertility is not an individual disease. It is one that affects us as a couple and tests our relationship daily. These restrictions on what it means to be infertile in this city have challenged us to locate a support group that matches our needs - as a couple wanting to talk to other couples and/or individuals about how they live in Grand Rapids with an infertile identity.

Desperate to find support, we have reached out to RESOLVE, a national infertility support group that provides resources online and in physical locations for groups and individuals needing emotional support. While RESOLVE has four support groups in Michigan, they are all located in East Michigan. As an organization run by volunteers, RESOLVE provides training and resources for volunteers to run support groups, yet it has no resources to provide a physical space for meetings. This has forced Kevin and I to search for a physical space to begin a RESOLVE chapter in Grand Rapids. Unfortunately, we have not been able to find support within this community. In desperation to share our story, we are seeking to connect with others who may know of someone who is suffering with infertility, or who is infertile, in order to collaborate with us and find a space for a West Michigan RESOLVE chapter that recognizes all the options and challenges to being infertile in Grand Rapids. If you are interested in joining our support group and/or have a space that you are willing to provide free of charge, please contact us.

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As a single, childless professional living in the #1 city to raise a family, I can relate to you and Kevin and your feelings of isolation. Thank you for starting this conversation.  

Lindsay, so happy to hear you are supportive of this piece. We recognize that infertility (and what it means to "have a family") is not just something that effects couples but individuals as well. If you are interested, we would be happy to keep you informed of future support network events as we begin to develop. -Maria